Friday, 4 November 2016

Stockholm Central Station: The Trauma Is So Great We Are Brought To Quoting Cicero

Quousque tandem abutere, Stockholm Central, patientia nostra?

 We were invited to celebrate the birthday of a very dear friend of ours, and for this reason got the sleeper train to Stockholm, a place we normally go to great lengths to avoid. All our worst paranoid fears were justified when we, having staggered off the train at 6:16 a.m., bleary-eyed and with the bonhomie of a gouty grizzly bear, went in search of the ladies', in order to tend to our personal hygiene and apply some make-up, only to find that the toilets were BLOODY UNISEX.

Now, we agree with you that it would be vastly preferable if we lived in a world where women weren't judged more on appearance than competence. We would totally fucking love it if a woman weren't 2.6 times more likely to be interrupted than a man, if women aspiring to any kind of authority didn't receive death- and rape threats as a matter of course, and if every time we appeared in public with no make-up on, people didn't flock around us asking if we're alright, as we look so tired. We would be thrilled if make-up weren't a prerequisite to women being taken seriously. Unfortunately, we have have grown up in a world where the foremost measure of a woman's worth is her appearance, and, thanks to this early socialisation, we are rather prone to slapping on some foundation and eyeliner before even attempting to interact with our fellow human beings.

The application of make-up requires solitude. It is a very private ritual, designed to provide an armour to mask one's inherent vulnerability in a man's world. A ritual that one certainly doesn't want some random person, cushioned by male privilege, to come and gawk at. This is why we are appalled every time we need to adjust our make-up and the toilets are unisex.

As we have stated before, we are all in favour of unisex toilets - as long as they don't leave women vulnerable to the male gaze, and the potential of male violence that it entails. Now, we are as aware as anyone that the risk of being exposed to violence is even greater for a trans person than a cis woman. But providing trans people with a safe place to go to the loo does surely not necessitate making women vulnerable?

Here's what happened when we got to the toilets at Stockholm Central train station:

We paid our ten kronor to the friendly attendant.

We went into an uncomfortable and not overly clean cubicle. We have ranted on the vileness of cubicles many times before, and do not need to further expostulate on this subject.
We despaired at the sound of a creepy middle-aged man trying to chat up two teenage girls right outside our cubicle, and deplored a world that allows him access to them in this despicable hell-hole of a restroom.
We washed our hands in the none-too-clean trough-like sinks. (What is this modern obsession with sinks in the shape of troughs? Is this a conspiracy by hipsters wanting everything to look like 19th-century farm equipment?)

We despaired at the absence of mirrors, and muttered the filthiest medieval curse we could think of, wishing warts and a wasting disease on the person who decided it was a good idea to install vaguely reflective black panels instead of mirrors.

We scowled at the pathetic "footage-of-a-fireplace-on-a-loop" installation, and wished, in a fit of petulance, that we had brought our shewee so we could piss disdainfully all over it.

We sent death rays of hatred in the direction of the person who decided to install air dryers instead of proper paper towels.

We washed our face, drying it with a tissue we had luckily brought with us, and wished that someone had had the forethought to predict that people would want to tend to their ablutions when getting off the sleeper train, and would require a more comfortable and hygienic option than sticking their face under the air dryer.

We scowled at the man unabashedly staring at us while we applied our make-up. We restrained ourselves from punching said man in the face.

We moved to a different sink.

The man followed us, and kept staring.


Dear Stockholm Central, would it be too hard to install a space where women can escape from the male gaze for just a few minutes, and actually feel safe? Would it not be possible to rip out the awful cubicles - that everyone hates anyway - and install proper toilets, with a proper sink and mirror in each one?

Even the famed Swedish blogger Blondinbella, who is not someone we would normally identify with, has expressed her disgust at the cringe-worthy awkwardness of mixed-sex toilets, and the traumatising experience of trying to apply make-up with a man staring at one.

Jernhusen, meanwhile - the company that owns all of Sweden's train stations - claim in a mindbogglingly imbecilic press release that the toilets at Stockholm Central "have been designed with inspiration from several natural elements, such as fire and water [how about wind?] and with aspects which attract [sic] several of visitors' senses [which ones, exactly?].

Despite this rampant hyperbole from Jernhusen, we felt uncomfortable and downright unsafe while visiting their toilets at Stockholm Central. We urge our readers to continue to avoid going to Stockholm, or, if you must go there, to avoid using the toilets at the central station.

Thankfully, once we arrived a our destination for the weekend, Mora Hotell in Mora, our senses were soothed and our spirit revived by a truly excellent toilet!

Isn't this hygienic, copper-coloured toilet-roll holder just beautiful?

An excellent, excellent sink. It truly restored our equilibrium after the cattle-trough trauma at Stockholm Central!

Everything in this toilet is beautiful and works well - from the toilet to the ventilation!

A sturdy bin, at a comfortable distance from the truly, truly excellent toilet. And there's that copper-coloured toilet-roll holder again! Woof!

A festive copper-coloured lamp, lighting up some festive locally sourced art.

We give this toilet two very enthusiastic thumbs up! (We are confident that, if Leslie Knope had been with us, she would also have loved this toilet.)

We have, actually, a whole hoard of fantastic photos from Australian Friend, Audiologist Friend, and Meandering Friend, but right now we have an urgent appointment with a gin and tonic. Let's finish with a festive video, shall we? Except let us first wish Maureen Helen - a fine, upstanding Australian and one of our favourite bloggers ever - a happy birthday!

Today's Festive Video carries a message which we rather think we could all do with hearing, but perhaps especially the teachers among us: You may feel like you're orienteering in the dark, with your feet bound and a pack of wolves howling just across that field full of landmines and clowns, and like your lesson planning is haphazard to the point of endangering your students' actual mental health. But actually, you're DOING JUST FINE.



Festive Video - Rodney Atkins, Doin' It Right

Related Reading
Another rather lengthy rant on unisex toilets: Love, Politics and the Revolution
The best unisex toilets we have ever come across are at the Bee Bar in Malmö

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